Go inside the fascinating history of the circus in America — and in Connecticut — with several special broadcasts this fall on CPTV, as well as a new two-part podcast from Connecticut State Historian Walter Woodward, now available to stream below!

“The Circus,” a new two-part, four-hour film from American Experience, will premiere on CPTV on Monday, October 8 and Tuesday, October 9 at 9 p.m. Explore the colorful history of this popular American form of entertainment, in an era when its stars were among the most famous people in the world and multitudes gathered to see the improbable and the impossible, the exotic and the spectacular.

View the trailer here:

Plus, get ready for the premiere of “The Circus” with a special encore of the CPTV Original documentary The Circus Fire on CPTV on Sunday, October 7 at 7 p.m. 

On July 6, 1944, the big top of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus caught fire during a performance in Hartford, Connecticut. Through photographs, archival film, and stories from survivors and people who have studied the fire, The Circus Fire examines this tragic event, and seeks to solve the many mysteries it triggered.


Stream the “Barnum” Podcast

For more on circus history — and particularly one figure who looms large in that history: Connecticut native P.T. Barnum — stream the new two-part podcast from Walter Woodward.

In Part 1, “Barnum’s Circus: How the Greatest Showman Made the Circus the Greatest Show 0n Earth,” follow the story of P.T. Barnum, from his entry into the circus business in 1870, through its merger to become Barnum & Bailey’s “Greatest Show on Earth,” to its final transformation into the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Hear interviews with Connecticut authorities on Barnum, experts involved with American Experience’s “The Circus” documentary, and interviews with participants in the 2018 Circus Historical Society Convention. They provide a look at the significance of the circus in American society, Barnum’s unique contributions to the development of circuses and mass culture, and his profound legacy for American culture in the 21st century.

Stream “Barnum’s Circus: How the Greatest Showman Made the Circus the Greatest Show 0n Earth” below. Subscribe to the podcast by clicking here »

In Part 2, “Barnum’s Connecticut,” explore Barnum’s lifelong ties to his home state. Barnum was deeply enmeshed in the life, politics, and culture of Connecticut. Learn about all the places and ways Barnum’s influence was felt in Connecticut, and the many ways he is still remembered in the Nutmeg State. Featuring Barnum Museum Director Kathy Maher, Old State House Executive Director Sally Whipple, and an international group of Barnum scholars, “Barnum’s Connecticut” takes listeners on a tour of Connecticut’s most important Barnum-related places. Plus, learn about the surprising impact “the Greatest Showman” had on Connecticut society outside of the entertainment business.

Stream “Barnum’s Connecticut” below. Subscribe to the podcast by clicking here »

Funding for this podcast series provided by UConn Health.


Hear more from Walter Woodward about the life of P.T. Barnum!
Stream three new video shorts about Barnum’s life and legacy below.



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